It is as though FC Halifax Town has its own gravitational pull to the play-offs.
Yet up until recently, season 2013/14 was characterised by formidable home form and abject away showings. Prior to visiting Ewen Fields to face Hyde, The Shaymen had contested in 17 Skrill Premier away fixtures, gaining just eight points from a possible 51.
Nevertheless since comprehensively triumphing over Hyde, Neil Aspin’s side have amassed five away victories from the comfort of The Shay, which includes striking away wins at Nuneaton Town, Barnet and Grimsby Town. Unexpected yet pivotal victories that have delighted Scott McManus & company:
“Yeah we’re confident every time we go out, we wanted nine points out of nine and knew we had to if we wanted to have any chance of getting into the play-offs. I think most people maybe would have taken a few less points than that, but obviously, we got the full nine and we couldn’t be happier as we’ve got them at just the right time.”
Counter-attacking with purpose and intent, McManus believes FC Halifax have the ability to soak up pressure and score a catalogue of goals, whilst ably restricting their opponents to a minimal amount of goalscoring opportunities, a pattern epitomised by the success at Blundell Park:
“We’ve restricted many teams of late to virtually nothing and it just comes from a belief that we’re going to win the game, we’ve got Lee Gregory, even though he didn’t score against Grimsby, we fully expect him to get a chance and score. Obviously we’ve got Lois (Maynard) who can pop up and score the odd one and so on. So as long as we keep it tight and well organised we’ve got a good chance of keeping a clean sheet and nicking the game one-nil or winning comfortably.”
Having recently competed regularly against fellow promotion rivals, this weekend’s clash with Macclesfield Town produces a telling but different task. Mathematically Macclesfield are not embroiled in either a promotion or relegation fight, their need for points are not as vital as Halifax’s who will go into the match shouldering the extra pressure, an environment McManus is braced for:
“We just have to go into the Macclesfield game like we have against the last three teams we’ve played who are fighting for promotion, we can’t underestimate them we have to treat it as the same and go out, we just need to try and put the ball down and play football. Whereas in the Grimsby game we didn’t really get a chance to do that because they had quite a lot of the ball in the first half and were very direct, it was just a nervous sort of game. So we shouldn’t underestimate Macclesfield that is why we will go out for the win like we have in the last three games, and as you say, we’ll more or less be in the play-offs, which would be a massive help going into the next two games.”
Providing Town can at the very least attain a share of the spoils this Saturday, it will mark 10 straight league matches without defeat, with a further two wins out of the remaining three matches guaranteeing a play-off spot for third placed Halifax. Nevertheless McManus is highly motivated to defeat The Silkmen after letting a two goal lead slip to succumb to a 2-2 draw in Cheshire last August:
“Earlier on this season we’ve had poor away form where stuff like that was happening. We were the better team on the day and played the best football. So we don’t want them to beat us as it will mean that we’ve not beat them all year so we need to win not just for our play-off hopes but because we owe it them for drawing with us last time out.”
The former Crewe Alexandra man quickly averted his gaze to his team-mates as he complimented Matty Glennon on reaching 40 clean sheets and 100 club appearances for FC Halifax Town. Before sympathising with Simon Ainge who has lost his place to the impressive Chris Smith:
“I think he is the best goalkeeper that I have ever played with, of late his performances have been massive for us. He has kept seven clean sheets on the bounce, it starts from him at the back and he has been great for us.
“Yeah I think Aingey (Simon Ainge) has been a bit unlucky because he’s been very good for us all year. But you can’t really change a winning team. I’m sure he’ll have a huge part to play in the coming games.”
With the conclusion of FC Halifax Town’s first-ever season in the fifth-tier of English football approaching, McManus refuses to dream about Wembley, for the time being:
“We’re not that far away but I’m just going to take every game as it comes and hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll be there.”
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